April 17, 2024

Edo Holds ‘Referendum’ LG Election Amidst Protest, Voters’ Apathy, Diversion of Materials

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Braimah, declared APC winner of Etsako West LGA

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By Correspondent

The long awaited Local Government Election in Edo State was conducted yesterday September 2, 2023 amidst protest, voters’ apathy, diversion of result sheets, in some cases, non-supply of all materials and overnight stealing of sensitive materials that were supplied by the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC).

Despite assurances from the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission, the Saturday September 2, 2023 election showed that the commission failed in logistics, and also failed to conduct a transparent, free and fair election.

In most of the polling units visited by Midwest Herald reporters, voters waited for hours in several cases, to cast their votes, while others went home disappointed when polling officers refused to show up.

Mr. Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo State has however given the exercise a pass mark. He told reporters yesterday after casting his vote that he was satisfied with conduct of the elections in his state.

Obaseki gave the score shortly after he voted at Ward 10, Unit 19 polling station at about 1.50 p.m.

“In spite of the rain, the turn out has been considerably interesting.

“That means political parties did all what they were supposed to do to sensitise the people.

“Secondly, we can see that the process has been very peaceful. I am very happy with this.

“That people were here some minutes before the close of polls. We have not had any incidence of violence from anywhere,” Obaseki said.

Others, including agents, representatives of political parties and election monitors scored the outcomes low.

Comrade Aiyamenkhue Edokpolor, President, Benin National Congress summed the election as “glorified fraud.” Edokpolor was the All Progressives Congress (APC) Director General for the elections in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area in the State.

“It was a bizarre appropriation of Edo electoral consciousness and goodwill.

“It was a glorified fraud in all honesty, as electoral materials didn’t appear in some voting centres at all, and where they appeared as late as 1pm, fierce or stern looking PDP touts roared in terrorizing tones, and scared feeble minded voters away.

“It was a sacrilege, if we are to take into account, the several years of a tradition of peaceful and transparent elections in Edo South Senatorial District,” the BNC president said.

The APC Chairmanship candidate in Ikpoba Okha, Soni Edebiri speaking in unit 3 and 4 of ward 9, lamented that voters turned out enmass to vote but as at 5pm when our reporter visited Iye Nuroho Primary School, EDSIEC officials were not on ground. Voting did not take place there. Edebiri rhetorically asked why Governor Obaseki decided to conduct the election when he knew he wasn’t ready.

“If Obaseki knew he wasn’t going to conduct election, why did he allow me to spend my money? I campaigned to over 700 units in the local government area, and I was not allowed to vote in the election that am a candidate” He asked, near to tears.

Edebiri told reporters that he had video evidence where members of the Edo State Security Network , popularly called Vigilante were thump printing ballot papers.

Comrade Matthew Amadasun, Chairman of Labour Party (LP) in Oduna Ward, Ovia North East Local Government Area, explained to Midwest Herald how they were forced to run away from the EDSIEC office in Okada on Friday night.

“After the Peoples Democratic Party armed thugs invaded the RAC Centre on Friday night, shooting sporadically, we told our agents to return to their wards and units and wait for them during the election on yesterday.

“The electoral officers refused to turn up, neither did we see any material.

“Labour Party will fill a formal petition against the forged result that has been announced by EDSIEC,” Comrade Amadasun told Midwest Herald on Sunday morning.

At the Oredo local government distribution office on Sapele Roads, polling officers complained of shortage of result sheets and stamps as at 11am on Saturday.

Enthusiastic voters complained that they polling officers had not arrived as at 11p.m. in Ozigbo and Konkord roads, when our reporter stopped over.

“I have been standing here since 8:30am, but I am yet to see polling officers that will attend to voters here. There is no election here, even at Garrick where there are several polling units, my neighbour just phoned me that she couldn’t vote,” the voter who refused to identify herself opined.

Voters waited till 3pm at the Adesuwa Girls Grammar School in the GRA axis of Benin City for election officer to arrive with materials but their wait was in vain and were forced to leave the venue.

The story in Egor Local Government wasn’t different. Despite the declaration of free movement by the state government, the traders in the popular Evbaheke motor spare parts market locked up their shops and thronged to the polling units.

They were however disappointed as election failed to hold in several units visited by Midwest Herald reporters.

In Ward II (Egor Primary School), where materials were available, some identified voters were prevented from gaining entrance into the school by touts allegedly loyal to the eventual candidate that was declared winner.

The chairman of the Edo State chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress, Odion Olaye, was sighted in the school and may have voted there.

Materials were delayed at Emokpai Primary School. Some persons hurriedly brought election materials shortly before the arrival of Governor Obaseki at about 2pm, where he eventually voted. Voters turnout at the unit was surprisingly low, compared to the outcome of the last national assembly elections that the Peoples Democratic Party lost in the ward.

The Labour Party candidate in Oredo Local Government Area, has already called for the cancellation of the election.

Daniel-Ero Onaghise made the call yesterday at the premises of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Benin City, when he was there to protest and register his party’s displeasure over the conduct of the election.

“I want to express my displeasure on this exercise. We had series of stakeholders’ meetings where they said BIVAs and Card Readers will be used but they jettisoned that idea.

“They said there would be restriction of movements but two days to the election the governor announced that there will not be restriction of movement so at that point, we started suspecting foul play but EDSIEC assured that everything would be fine.

“Today, it took more than six hours for materials to arrive, EDSIEC staff were not seen. I am the LP Chairmanship Candidate for Oredo but as I speak to you, I can’t vote because there are no materials.

“People have been at the polling unit since 7am. I call for the cancellation of the exercise that is fraught with irregularities.”

Col David Imuse, rtd, All Progressives Congress (APC) State Chairman who was on ground in Ekpoma called the election a scam.

“This election is a scam. It is a charade!

“They brought insufficient ballot papers but no single result sheets how can you conduct an election when there is no result sheet?

“It is happening right in the entire Edo Central Senatorial District.

“I am calling from Ekpoma. The same thing is happening in Esan North East, Esan West and I don’t see how an election can take place without result sheets,” the APC Chairman exclaimed.

The situation in Edo North Senatorial District is more disturbing. After the smooth take off of the exercise in some polling units, situation deteriorated later in the afternoon.

In some units, electoral officers refused to count the votes and were counting took place, the officers refused to collate or announce winners.

The situation led voters to assume the responsibility of EDSIEC officers who had absconded or failed to turn up.

For instance, Abdul-Ganiyu Braimah PhD, a certain ‘Returning Officer’ declared APC candidate as Chairman of the Etsako West Local Government Election in Auchi with the following results: APC- 8,653; LP- 1,268; PDP- 4,656.

But latter in the day, a parallel result was declared in Benin City for the PDP candidate.

The candidate of APC in Owan West Local Government Area, Enahoro Aikpokpo in a statement issued today, September 3, 2023, called yesterday’s election “another sad, devastating and debilitating day for Democracy.”

Aikpokpo statement reads: “Beloved Greetings the wonderful people of Owan West LGA, my esteemed APC Party members, leaders, friends and well wishers.

“I want to profoundly thank you all for your immeasurable and steadfast support, genuine well wishes and impassioned prayers all through the build up and campaigns to the local government elections.

“And even for the unprecedented zeal and turnout on the election day.

“Unfortunately it was another sad, devastating and debilitating day for Democracy as those who yesterday rode to power on the inherent and intrinsic derivables of free, fair and credible elections and their agents decided to assassinate democracy.

“The Edo State government led EDSIEC orchestrated a phantasmagoria of horror and sham election with attendant no/insufficient materials and psychotic mayhem all in a bid to torpedo the people’s wish and will.

“However this perversion of justice is but temporary, it will elapse!

“My advisory and legal team will make a statement soon.”

In Etsako Central, some youths from Okpella vowed not to allow any Chairman that was declared winner outside the local government.

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